Fearing indictment is imminent in classified docs probe, Trump team requests meeting with DOJ

The former president's attorneys requested the meeting with AG Merrick Garland.

May 24, 2023, 8:05 AM

Former President Donald Trump's legal team has formally requested a meeting with Attorney General Merrick Garland, amid fears from his attorneys that the coming weeks could bring a possible indictment of Trump regarding his alleged efforts to retain materials after leaving office and to obstruct the government's attempts to retrieve them.

The letter, though thin on details, was sent so Trump's lawyers could present arguments that Trump should not be charged in the investigation related to his alleged mishandling of classified documents, sources familiar with the matter tell ABC News.

The letter asks Garland for a meeting at his earliest convenience to discuss what the attorneys describe as the "ongoing injustice that is being perpetrated" by special counsel Jack Smith and says that no president has been "baselessly investigated" in such an "unlawful fashion."

The one-page letter was signed by Trump lawyers John Rowley and James Trusty, and does not outline any specific allegations of wrongdoing by Smith and his team.

The request does not specifically detail what Trump's legal team wants to discuss with the attorney general. Trump has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing associated with his handling of materials bearing classification markings.

It's not clear whether Trump's attorneys are acting on any specific knowledge of Smith's investigation.

Trump posted the letter on his Truth Social account Tuesday night.

A spokesperson for Garland and a spokesperson for the special counsel's office both declined to comment to ABC News.

The letter from Trump's attorneys follows more than a year of negotiations between Trump's team and the government, which resulted in a breakdown of trust that led to the government's May 2022 subpoena for documents and its subsequent search of Mar-a-Lago last August. Since then, as ABC News has previously reported, the DOJ and Trump's lawyers have continued to battle over compliance with grand jury subpoenas.

National Archives officials initially asked the Justice Department in early 2022 to investigate Trump's handling of White House records after the National Archives in January retrieved 15 boxes of records from Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida that had been improperly taken from the White House in violation of the Presidential Records Act.

The DOJ probe hit a critical point on August 8, 2022, when Mar-a-Lago was searched by FBI agents. Federal investigators seized more than 100 documents with classified markings during the search, according to an unsealed detailed inventory list. From Trump's office alone, there were 43 empty folders seized with classified banners.

The property inventory list also showed agents gathered more than 11,000 documents or photographs without classification markings, all of which were described as property of the U.S. government.

Since the August search, Trump and his legal team have found additional classified documents and have received additional subpoenas for information that the government believes could still be in Trump's possession.

Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2023, March 4, 2023, at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md.
Alex Brandon/AP, FILE

As ABC News first reported in March, prosecutors in the special counsel's office have presented compelling preliminary evidence that Trump knowingly and deliberately misled his own attorneys about his retention of classified material after leaving office, according to sources who described the contents of a sealed filing from a top federal judge.

In a sealed filing from March, Judge Beryl Howell ordered Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran to comply with a grand jury subpoena for testimony over which he had previously asserted attorney-client privilege. Sources said Howell ordered Corcoran to hand over a number of records tied to what she described as Trump's alleged "criminal scheme," echoing prosecutors. Those records included handwritten notes, invoices, and transcriptions of personal audio recordings.

The meeting request from Trump's attorneys comes as infighting within Trump's legal team has spilled into the public eye.

Over the weekend, former Trump lawyer Tim Parlatore -- who left Trump's legal team last week -- publicly blasted a current lawyer for Trump, alleging that Boris Epshteyn attempted to interfere with additional searches for classified material at Trump's properties.

"In my opinion, he was not very honest with us or with the client on certain things. There were certain things like the searches that he had attempted to interfere with," Parlatore said during an appearance on CNN on Saturday. Parlatore added that Epshteyn, who has served as somewhat of a liaison between the lawyers, made defending Trump more difficult.

A Trump campaign spokesperson said in a statement that Parlatore's assertions were "categorically false."

Editor's Note: This story has been updated.

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